WENATCHEE — You know a pop-culture conference is going bonkers when even Dr. Who’s time machine gets thirsty.
“Just standing in line for a Pepsi,” laughed Nicole Villacres, a WEN-CON attendee dressed convincingly as the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), a time machine that resembles a British emergency call booth. Dr. Who uses it to transport himself through time and space.
Whoa … WEN-CON? Time machine? Thirsty? What’s all this about? Let’s back up for some explanation:
WEN-CON, Wenatchee’s first full-blown pop-culture conference, on Saturday attracted to Town Toyota Center more than 1,700 eager fans of … well, just about everything cool — comic books, Japanese anime, video and role-playing games, sci-fi and fantasy movies and TV, fan fiction, space art and superhero figurines. Literally, thousands of figurines and related toys.
Many fans — hundreds of them — costumed themselves (called “cosplay”) as favorite characters from Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Game of Thrones, The Avengers, PowerRangers, Pirates of the Caribbean and dozens of other sci-fi and fantasy movies and TV shows.
Such as Dr. Who. “I’ve seen all the shows in all the seasons, and that’s saying something,” said Villacres, adjusting the emergency call light (a TARDIS fixture) atop her head. Since its premiere in 1963, the Dr. Who series has shown 827 installments. “I LOVE Dr. Who,” she added.
WEN-CON also featured presentations by pop-culture notables that drew overflow crowds. Appearing were Johnny Yong Bosch, a voice actor for the PowerRangers; Steve Blum, a voice actor for the X-Men animated series; John Alexander, an actor in Hellboy and Men in Black movies; Rick Farmiloe, an animation artist for Disney and Dreamworks; and half a dozen others.
Another popular WEN-CON attraction — judging by the number of selfies — was a movie-accurate replica of the time-traveling DeLorean automobile from the Back to the Future films. It came complete with a Flux capacitor, a Mr. Fusion home energy reactor and authentic lighted time circuits. “These are the things that make time travel possible — at least according to the movies,” said Ryan Wells, a designer of the replica (called The Wells-Yellowstone Time Machine). For three years, he’s made a living touring the replica to pop-cons around the country.
“Honestly? We didn’t foresee this size of a crowd,” said Ron Evans, founder of RadarStation, a gallery and magazine promoting “pop-surrealism and lowbrow art” and WEN-CON’s presenting sponsor. “It shows people here (North Central Washington) are starved for some kind of event like this — a place where they can join with like-minded people, where they won’t be judged, where they can get lost in a world of creativity and fun.”
WEN-CON coordinator Melissa Pitt agreed. “Last year, we talked with people who are involved with these kinds of things, and they told us, ‘Do it, and people will come.’”
Organizers of other conferences warned her that a first-year event might attract fewer than 200 people, Pitt said. But WEN-CON’s pre-event ticket sales surpassed 900 a week before the launch. A line had formed at the arena’s ticket office an hour before doors opened Saturday.
“I wouldn’t have missed it,” said Nadine Hacker, 23, of Wenatchee, decked out as the blue-haired Maya the Siren, an energy-manipulating amazon from the video game Borderlands 2. “This is a great opportunity to dress as one of my favorite characters,” she added. “Maya’s a badass.”
Rock Island couple Derek and Carol Olsen, age 23 and 21 respectively, put in time and effort to costume themselves as two additional “badass” superheroes, Marvel’s wisecracking Deadpool and DC’s villianess sexpot Harley Quinn.
“I struggled with this costume,” said Carol, dressed in a form-fitting T-shirt, shorts and stockings and sporting Quinn’s signature pigtails. “I ordered the shirt four times, but it was never right. I ended up making this one myself.”
Heather and Cory Clark of Wenatchee involved their whole family in the WEN-CON experience. Their 5-year-old twins, Finley and and Aubrey, were dressed as Luke and Princess Leia from Star Wars. Their aunt, Jodi DeCesari, Omak, costumed herself as a female Darth Vader. “I’m a Vaderess,” she laughed.
And dad Cory Clark, a WEN-CON toy vendor, sold superhero figurines and cosplay gear. He also promoted his upcoming Greater Wenatchee Toy Show, set for June 24 at Town Toyota Center.
“The whole dress-up thing is definitely fun for us,” said Heather, who wore regular street clothes on Saturday but in the past has dressed as Star Wars’ Queen Amidala, mother of Luke and Leia.
She watched her twins waving kiddie-sized lightsabers. “Finley takes this pretty seriously,” said Heather. “He’s even been through Jedi training at Disneyland. Can you believe it?”